Saturday, January 13, 2024

If you do not know who you are. . .

One of the things at issue within the whole gender identity debate is the significance of not knowing who you are. Knowing who you are certainly includes knowing if you are male or female but it also extends from this knowing who created you and what sin has done to taint God's good creation.  In determining who is to be baptized, one of the things required is that the person or the family bringing the child to the waters of baptism confess God's good creation, sin's corruption of that which God has deemed very good, of the life of repentance and catechesis that flows from this baptism, and of the shape of God's godly order for the individual within that creation (vocation).

No one receives baptism as God's stamp of approval over you and who you are and what you have done.  No one.  Not heterosexuals nor homosexuals and not those who think they fit somewhere in between the binary shape now so despised today.  Baptism is the killing of the sinful self and the birth of the new person, created in Christ Jesus, for faith, good works that glorify God, and for everlasting life.  We are born anew -- new people rising up from the baptismal waters -- not to give approval or blessing upon what was but in order that everything we are or intend is made new.

If you do not know who you are or if those presenting you to be baptized do not know this, where do we go from here?  Do we proceed with the baptism presuming that something magical will happen apart from the faith confessed and growth in faith of those baptized?  Or do we stop at that moment to catechize in preparation for baptism?  I am sure that I am not alone as a pastor who has been asked by a grandparent to secretly baptize a grandchild because the parents are not believers or someone who wants the privileges of baptism but cannot quite bring themselves to believe the Word of the Lord or live in captivity to its truth.  But baptism is not a magical act which lives without the rest of the command to teach all that I have commanded you.  Nor is baptism the end of negotiation and compromise until we believe that God respects where we are coming from and we are able to receive His blessing without such life of repentance.

Baptism is, at least at first, the acknowledgement of who we are.  We are sinners -- not simply because we have deliberately or actually sinned in thought, word, and deed, but also because we were born into sin.  We are not asking God to participate in our sin or condone it or celebrate it.  We are offering it to the Lord so that He may forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  That includes our confusion over who we are and our disordered desires as well as desires that are rightly ordered but evil and our confusion over what is good and right and salutary.  We confess it all -- the good that we have done and the good left undone.  To stand before baptism is to admit our need for what baptism offers and God promises.  Without this, what good is that baptism except as mere symbol and sign without any power to affect who we are or how then we live?

Baptism is not the reward for the righteous but the gift to the sinner.  Therefore, we teach and confess that all sinners are welcome to receive baptism -- if they are willing to admit their sin and need or the family bringing them to the waters of baptism is.  Further, all sinners are welcome to receive baptism -- if they acknowledge that the work of baptism is done by the Spirit and not by the baptized -- including the faith that receives and rejoices in what baptism does.  And all sinners are welcome to receive baptism -- with the promise that they will work to turn from the ways of sin and evil and seek with all their heart, mind, body, and soul to  follow the Lord Jesus Christ in newness of life.  If those with gender confusion are neither willing nor ready to admit their sin or hear the call to repentance or heed the call to follow, what good is it to seek or to receive baptism?  Perhaps those who have no intention of turning from their sin, repenting and having faith in Jesus Christ do not wish to be baptized anyway but if they show up, the least we can do is to be faithful to them and to everyone who seeks to be baptized or to have their children baptized.  We must speak the Word in love to them and to all who come seeking baptism.

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